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Monday, May 12, 2008

Debra Lee is Ticked Off At the Washington Post :Ignore the Critics and Watch Your Ratings

We are changing, improving and serving the needs and aspirations of our viewers -- aspirations that are more often than not ignored by other networks. Debra Lee, CEO of BET

The NAACP giving you an image award makes me laugh.If that's what BET needs to make them feel okay with continuing to be the worst thing that has happened to black people in the last 25 years then ignore the critics and watch your ratings.
Marla, a commenter on WAPO.com in response to Debra Lee

Remember that article in the Washington Post profiling Reggie Whatshisname ("Channel Changer")? Well apparently Teresa Wiltz didn't get the memo that the Washington Post is BET's mouthpiece. After monitoring news coverage for over a year, its clear that in times of crisis, BET turns to the LA Time's entertainment reporter, Gregg, and somebody at the WAPO. Even though Wiltz didn't do the usual litany of BET criticisms, apparently she left out the important BET talking points. For those who have been following BET's toxic MESS clean up over the last year, it goes something to the effect of "blah blah blah GOSPEL SHOW blah blah blah HIP HOP VS. AMERICA blah blah blah GOSPEL SHOW and repeat."

So in response to Wiltz's article, Debra Lee penned a letter to the editor. Debra Lee wants y'all to know that the NAACP gave their gospel show an Image Award:

Nor does she [Wiltz] mention that BET has won seven awards for its news programs in the past year; that BET won the NAACP Image Award for its annual "Celebration of Gospel" (the highest-rated religious program in television the past two years); that BET Networks received an Emmy Award for its long-standing "Rap-It-Up" campaign, which promotes HIV-AIDS awareness; or that the annual BET Awards show has been the No. 1 show in African American households for several years. Debra Lee
In all fairness I could have written a letter to the editor complaining as well because Wiltz left out my quote about BET being a multimedia crack dealer and all of its original programming was the low-rent version of its corporate cousins, MTV and VH1, but you didn't see me whining about that. Let me translate Debra Lee's letter:
Dear Washington Post,

Yes, we sell multimedia crack cocaine, but we also hand out frozen Thanksgiving turkeys once a year. We only sell multimedia crack between the hours of 10 and 2 and we take Sundays off. What happened to those talking points we sent over? Why didn't Teresa Wiltz plug any of our Gospel shows and our once a year Awards show and those three episodes of Hip Hop vs America where we featured some members of the Civil Rights Industrial Complex and BET Honors Recipient, Cornel West ?
Who cares if y'all got an NAACP Image Award last year? Didn't the NAACP also nominate an accused child predator for an Image Award? Didn't the NAACP give Tyler Perry and Award for his role as "Madea" in "Diary of a Mad Black Woman"?

The Rap-IT Up reference is ironic because they are running PSA's about responsible sex practices, yet turn around and feature videos glamorizing debauchery and irresponsibility. Wasn't there a a College Hill episode where the interns were humping each other on a pool table? Debbie call me when you start running PSA directed at young Black girls that say "You Are Not the Sum of Your Body Parts .... Even though we tell you otherwise every hour on the hour." Run a PSA that says "Stripping is hazardous to your health....Even though we tell you otherwise every afternoon between 3 and 6" Run a PSA that says "Drug Dealers are not Heroes, they are traitors to the race."

If I were her, I would stop mentioning "A Celebration of Gospel" before some angry church folks start targeting the gospel artists appearing on the show. I can hear some enterprising young preacher now giving a sermon about "singing in Pharaoh's Choir" or some stuff like that. "Paging Rev. Rollo Goodlove, where you at?" Because if they scare off all the gospel artists, what's left to deflect criticism? Take the Cake? Hell Date? Stop hiding behind the Lord's shirttails, you can't tell me videos talking about B*tches, Bullets and Bling are biblical.
Perhaps most unfairly, the story focused on a few programming misfires -- what network has none? Debra Lee
Um programming misfires? You gotta love Debbie's penchant for the understatement. Let's be clear, the reason you have has a year long spate of negative newspaper articles isn't because of a few programming misfires, but because of a massive public relations blunder of the EPIC variety. You let ONE show overshadow an entire season of shows. You followed that up with a
lewd cartoon you tried to pass off as a PSA which made you an even riper target. Instead of heading off critics at the pass and coming up with something to temporarily appease them, you chose to call them names in major news publications and send them condescending letters and hired a consulting firm to "monitor" them. If you were smart, which every indication is that you are not, you would have scheduled a series of meetings and formed a meaningless committee to make folks feel as if you were listening to their concerns and giving their concerns thoughtful consideration.

To be fair *cough* Debra Lee went to Viacom and asked them to reinvest the hundreds of millions of dollars that BET brings in. The whole reason Viacom purchased BET was because BET was and continues to be a CASH COW. Despite Black folks and advertisers forking over hundreds of millions of dollars, Bob Johnson bled BET dry and didn't reinvest a fraction of what he was pulling in. That is why they relied on music videos for so long. Because videos were cheap. Unfortunately for them, VH1 came along and realized that while music videos are cheap, so is reality television.

BET couldn't very well let VH1 become known as the destination for Black audiences because how would they convince advertisers that the road to Black audiences is through BET? SO what did they do? They started trying to play catch up. Only one problem, you have a DAMAGED brand. DAMAGED. Say BET to a group of regular Black folks and watch what happens. Not only are they a DAMAGED brand, but their own executives are contemptuous of their own audience or too money hungry trying to ink production deals with their buddies that even with 100 Million dollars of Viacom's money, they churned out dud after dud and defended the flops as they went down in flames. That's not bad programming, that's plain old bad business judgment. Notice that Debra Lee didn't mention a single scripted show in her letter. Everything is videos or reality television. In other words, high school seniors with HD cameras could produce most of BET's current programming.

BET does not have a programming problem. It has a cultural problem. Let's take her at her word *wheeze* that music videos only comprise 20% of their programming, that still does not account for the contempt with which they hold their audience. What irritates me most is that BET's talking points keep referring to the regime of B*tches Bullets and Bling as "Black Youth Culture." There is no WAY that an executive at MTV, CBS, ABC would ever say drug use, stripping, violence, and anti social behavior was synonymous with "Black youth culture." They would be gone! Out the door! The NAACP wouldn't be handing them an Image Award, the Hollywood Chapter would be beating down the doors demanding an apology, yet BET repeatedly says this over and over again. What is worse is that they have had advertisers like McDonalds parrot BET's garbage talking about "we're trying to reach a certain demographic." So what is McDonald's saying about Black people?

I applaud those who have have recognized that the only people BET will listen to are advertisers. You can lay siege to their homes and they will still ignore Black folks. P&G is talking about "moving" their ads from BET's soft porn in the afternoon disguised as music videos. I don't know if that means they are pulling the ads completely or just moving them elsewhere on the network, but McDonald's and GM would be hard pressed not to follow suit.

I think Teresa Wiltz was downright heroic to write this article. Somebody must not have told her that BET runs the Washington Post. I bet she knows now. Y'all feel free to write a letter to the editor in response or post comments to Debbie's letter. There are only 4 comments on the Washington Post right now. See what we can do to at least take that out to 20 comments. Most of the comments... okay ALL of the comments are critical of BET and Debbie Lee.

There are some who will get their view of black life entirely from the one station that touts itself as being for blacks. I am not impressed and I hope that other black stations that are morally sound will arise in your place and that BET no longer will be the voice of black america because it stopped representing us along time ago. The NAACP giving you an image award makes me laugh. If that what BET needs to make them feel okay with continuing to be the worst thing that has happened to black people in the last 25 years then ignore the critics and watch your ratings. Marla from the WAPO Comments in response to Debra Lee's letter.
Marla, they can't ignore the critics, the critics have finally figured out a way to to mess with their "paper." BET is a damaged brand. DAMAGED and as soon as Comcast figures out who to partner with to target African Americans between the ages of 12 and 18, BET's target audience, you will be able to sit back and marvel at the implosion. It is coming. They have already taken aim at "older" Black folks. They are about to start a 24-hour Black news network. Like I said, BET is a damaged brand.